Sept. 28, 2018 - In the old days, gas welding was the choice of most sawfilers, and for many it still is. In modern times, however, the mig welder has become more popular. Unfortunately, there is a learning curve when you switch over, and re-cracks are a common curse on new users. As with anything in saw filing, there are many ways to do the job and so, at the risk of offending filers who swear by their own methods, this is what works for me.
March 26, 2018 - Sawmillers in Canada today have more technology options to consider than ever before for every aspect of an operation. When it comes to kiln drying, batch systems are the more common choice, but there isn’t one application that fits every sawmillers’ needs. Canadian Forest Industries spoke to three suppliers of continuous dry kilns (CDKs) to offer insight for sawmillers trying to decide what would work best.
March 13, 2018 - Ontario is supporting Columbia Forest Products to expand its plywood mill in Hearst and Rutherglen, helping to create and maintain almost 350 jobs and boost economic growth.

The province is investing nearly $3.2 million over five years in Columbia Forest Products’ infrastructure project, which will enable the company to grow its business and increase efficiency by modernizing its infrastructure and purchasing new equipment to maximize production capacity, increase competitiveness and expand into new markets, while ensuring resources are managed sustainably.

“A respectful working relationship between the Ontario government, our union partners and Columbia’s leadership team in Ontario continues to strengthen as evidenced by the ongoing expansion and modernization of Columbia’s Ontario hardwood plywood and veneer operations — a positive case study that witnesses complementary organizations working together to build a solid future for Columbia’s dedicated Ontario team members,” said Gary Gillespie, executive vice-president of Canadian plywood and decorative veneer operations at Columbia Forest Products.

Columbia Forest Products is one of North America's largest manufacturers of hardwood plywood and hardwood veneer products. Columbia's decorative interior veneers and panels are used in high-end cabinetry, fine furniture, architectural millwork and commercial fixtures.

“I am happy to see the investment we are making in northern Ontario, and the support this will provide to families in Ontario,” said Minister of Economic Development and Growth Steven Del Duca.

By generating over $15.3 billion in revenues and supporting approximately 172,000 direct and indirect jobs, the forestry sector is a significant part of communities across the province.

“Our government understands how important a strong forest products sector is to Ontario’s economy and the key role it plays in many northern and rural communities,” said Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Nathalie Des Rosiers. “The Forestry Growth Fund, under the Jobs and Prosperity Fund, is assisting the sector to increase production capacity and expand into new markets while continuing to ensure our forests are sustainably managed.”
Feb. 27, 2018 - In 1999, thousands of hours of dedicated volunteer work and more than 20 years of community input came to fruition with the incorporation of the Harrop-Procter Community Co-operative.
Dec. 1, 2017 - Canfor Pulp Products Inc. announced today that it has taken a temporary and unscheduled outage on one production line at its Northwood Northern Bleached Softwood Kraft (NBSK) pulp mill located in Prince George, B.C., as a result of a tube leak in the number five recovery boiler.

Canfor Pulp anticipates the number five recovery boiler to be down for approximately two weeks, and is currently projecting 15,000 tonnes of reduced NBSK pulp production during the fourth quarter 2017, as well as higher associated maintenance costs and lower projected shipment volumes.

To mitigate the impact of the incident, Canfor Pulp is continuing to operate the second production line at the Pulp mill and will advance certain mill maintenance activities previously scheduled to be performed in the first quarter of 2018.

Due to mitigation efforts by Canfor Pulp the temporary outage is not expected to have a material impact on the financial condition of the Company. The company will be making a claim under its insurance program.
April 13, 2017 - You know the old saying that you can tell a lot about a person by the way they dress, and how they present themselves? The same rule applies to business. 

I had lunch with a friend the other day and like usual, we were talking shop. He seemed agitated, like he wanted to say something but kept stopping himself. Eventually I blurted out, “Just say it already!” As it turns out, he wanted to suggest a topic for me to write an article about. Something that he’d been noticing for awhile about sawmills, and it needed to be said.

I love receiving topic suggestions from people. Usually when someone in the industry sends me a topic, it’s something a lot of people want to hear about and is very relevant.

My friend wanted me to write about hygiene in sawmills; how clean and organized they are. He told me he could tell the financial state of a sawmill by its cleanliness. I paused for a moment and thought about all the sawmills I’ve been to over the years (hundreds!). I hadn’t looked at it from that aspect before.

Looking back, I realized that yes, when mills looked dirty, disorganized or otherwise unkempt, they were often struggling financially.

Why a dirty sawmill is a failing sawmill 

I hadn’t considered the correlation between the financial health of a sawmill and its emphasis on cleanup as being related. But, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. 

For the people working in sawmills, or the forestry sector, you’ve been there, right? I’ve heard of many people not wanting to go back to certain mills because they felt uneasy. It just seemed like there was something wrong there.

I get it. When you enter a sawmill, there is literally wood flying everywhere. There’s lots going on, people bustling about. The more productive the mill, the more wood flying and bustling people.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to watch productivity at work! It’s so nice to see a mill running smoothly.

The problem is when you go into a mill where what looks like productivity, is actually chaos in disguise.

What your dirty sawmill says about you

When you visit someone’s house, or business, and it’s dirty or cluttered, it tells you a lot about that household or business. Often it can mean not having pride in their surroundings, or themselves. Personally, I wouldn’t go back to a house that’s dirty. I’m not talking about a few newspapers left out, I mean like really filthy!

This is what my friend was implying when he suggested the topic of sawmill hygiene.

More than just appearances, when you go into a business that’s dirty and unkempt, what does it say about them? Do you think they have an emphasis on safety? Are their employees their number one concern?

I can’t imagine that any disheveled business would have a good safety record. If they do, they’re on borrowed time until a real disaster hits. And in a business like a sawmill with powerful equipment and human machine operators, that disaster could mean someone’s life.

My friend had another great point. He truly believes that companies who don’t emphasize proper cleanup or organization probably also don’t care much about maintaining their equipment.

This stands to reason that if their maintenance is as bad as their filth, the company isn’t going to be around for the long term.

It reminds me of those old, rundown stores you see when travelling around the world. One day they are just gone, but nobody wonders why. It was just a matter of time.

Here, we analyze and overanalyze and fret. We ask ourselves, “Why did they fail?” 

It was just a matter of time.

Keeping your sawmill organized and productive

A productive facility can make quite the mess! Mess doesn’t always equal a downward spiral. The real measure of a company, or sawmill, is how they deal with the mess. It shows their commitment to themselves, and the safety and health of their employees.

Next time you’re walking around your shop, think about how you’d perceive it if you were brand new and it was your first visit there. Look around, see what could be organized better, or cleaned up better, or what needs maintenance soon. 

You can’t make a product with a broom in one hand. But after you’re done making a product, then pick up a broom!

Another great old saying is ‘everything in moderation’. I believe in that. A little mess, a little cleanup, they go hand in hand. 

With sawmills, and all other businesses, first impressions are important. Many companies are having trouble attracting good skilled workers. Well, maybe a factor in that is how those companies present themselves.

Potential employees will see that mess and think, “No way, I’m not working here, it’s not safe.” Your customers will see the mess too, just like a rundown roadside store.

Don’t let your customers think it’s only a matter of time for you.
Feb. 13, 2017 - Several years ago, Foothills Forest Products had a difficult time finding a home for the shavings being produced by its planer mill operations at its sawmill in Grand Cache, Alta.
Feb. 13, 2017 - For as long as mill workers have been running wood through saws we have understood the importance of having every part of the machine positioned at exactly the right pre-determined location and angle to facilitate the smooth passage of the log and the straightest cut possible. A very small change in the inclination of a roll can mean the difference between a good day and a disaster. A slightly off angled saw will heat up and destroy itself in short order.
Feb. 13, 2017 - Warp can be the result of both the inherent characteristics of wood as well as a number of introduced (process-related) variables. Through proper handling and management of the drying operations we can have an influence on the severity and amount of warp occurring from either cause. This article will highlight a number of specific ways in which those losses can be minimized to have a positive monetary impact on your operation.
Dec. 20, 2016 - It was announced earlier in December that Lavern Heideman & Sons would be upgrading its facilities.

The Eganville, Ont.-based company’s $16.9-million expansion project includes modernizing infrastructure, purchasing new equipment and consolidating operations.

“Right now we have two sawmills on the site — a bandmill for larger diameter logs and a scragg mill for nine inches and under,” vice-president of Lavern Heideman & Sons Kris Heideman told Canadian Forest Industries. “And it’s the big log line, the 10 inch and up line that we’re rebuilding. And then we’re also adding in kilns and planing and remanufacturing capabilities.” 

Heideman said specific equipment has already been chosen for the upgrade. 

“There will be a 130-bin sorter and stacker by Piché, T-S Manufacturing for the sawmill [and] the rest is to be determined,” Heideman said. “The sorter and stacker will start up in December 2017 and the new sawmill will start up in spring of 2018.”

Heideman says productivity and efficiency gains are the main goals of the expansion project, which will also create 18 new jobs.

“There is the potential to add another shift on top of what we’re doing currently, but that being said there will be jobs added on the finishing, remanufacturing and packaging lines,” Heideman said.

He also added that production will go up about 60 per cent as a direct result of the upgrades.

“Just through our improvements and our processes for the big log line, and the newer equipment, and significant upgrades, and optimization and scanning capabilities will all improve our efficiency and our productivity,” Heideman told CFI.

Heideman said he is most looking forward to the modernization of the plant and the security that will be provided for employees “that will be competitive well into the future.”

The Lavern Heideman & Sons upgrade is poised to be a positive project for the entire Eganville area.

“It’s significant to note it’s not just the hundred and some jobs at the mills,” Heideman said. “It’s the harvesting activities that support the wood flow not only in our mill, but other sawmills and pulp mills, biogas plants, MDF plants, all benefit from the increased harvesting activity on the landscape. And it’s good for the forest management and our forests going forward.”

RELATED: Lavern Heideman & Sons embarking on $16.9-million sawmill expansion

Sawmill has limited options
Nov. 25, 2016 - The name of the game in the saw trade is precision. Measurements are to the thousands of an inch. Tension, clearances and speeds are all carefully calculated. It makes sense therefore that the machinery upon which we mount those saws should be equally precise, thus the necessity for grinding bandmill wheels.
Oct. 13, 2016 - If you have worked in a sawmill for any length of time, then you have seen it happen many times. The saws are running great, the mill is producing and everybody is happy. Then all of a sudden, the saws start wandering, or there is a wreck, and then another wreck. Nobody is too worried at first, these things happen right?

Aug. 16, 2016 - On the surface, levelling a saw sounds pretty simple. You just put a straight edge against the saw with a light behind it and look for a dark spot. Then you hit it with a hammer until it is gone. In reality, levelling a saw is very difficult to learn and perform properly.

Aug. 16, 2016 - When it comes to keeping a sawmill’s debarkers running in tip-top shape and preventing unnecessary downtime, the key is proactive maintenance.

June 21, 2016 - When it comes to saw filing, definitive rules are hard to come by. What works for one saw filer might be a disaster for another. If you have two mills from the same company manufacturing the same products with similar equipment, the natural assumption from mill managers and purchasing agents is that standardization should be possible and profitable – and sometimes it is. But more often than not, the success of the first mill can be difficult to duplicate in another.

The problem with attempting uniformity between sawmills is that every combination of machinery, employees, wood diet and environmental conditions produces a different animal. The same can be said for saw filers. How a person sees light and shadow, how tall they are, their physical strength, their experience, and even how they hold their hammer, will all affect how that person works a saw and what the end result will be.

Sure, there are basic standards within the trade that you can reasonably expect to be consistent – tire-lines will be more or less where you expect them to be; saws will be as level as possible and tension will be the correct amount to run properly for the application. But here’s the rub, it’s how the combination comes together that is more important than what each individual component looks like, and that is controlled by the experience and preferences of the filer.

For example, a question that gets asked often is, “Why do they all have their own saws? Aren’t they doing them all the same? Shouldn’t they be able to have ‘common’ saws?” The simple answer is, “No, not usually.” Whenever circumstances force filers to work each other’s saws the result is seldom ideal. Cracks appear in saws that have never cracked and benchmen are heard grumbling about how their saws have been changed by the other benchman. Theoretically, they haven’t been changed at all since they all have the same target, but in reality, small changes in a balanced pattern can have large consequences.

One of the variants is in how a filer gauges tension. In a bandsaw for instance, the two most popular methods are “light gap” and “black to the gauge.” In the first, the saw gauge is ground so that when held to the saw, a thin sliver of light shows from edge to edge and the filer uses that gap to tell if the tension is uniform and that the amount is appropriate. A small amount of pressure is then applied to the gauge and if all is well then everything would go black. Most benchmen use this method but it is subjective to the way a benchman holds his gauge, the pressure that is applied, etc. The filer gets used to seeing what he expects to see in a properly benched saw. Someone else may view the same saw differently.

Other filers prefer to use a tension gauge that is ground to the curvature of the desired tension. When the saw has been levelled, the filer looks for no light between the tires when the gauge is held against the saw. The disadvantage to this method is bumps and tension problems can masquerade as “perfect” if a benchman isn’t very careful with what they’re doing. The black-out method is more often used by very experienced filers.  Again, the angle of the gauge, the pressure applied, all change the sight picture for different filers. Is there a right way and a wrong way? To a certain extent, yes - you can’t just do whatever you like and expect a positive result - but a filer that is confident in his chosen method will produce a better product every time.

When it comes to levelling, I myself prefer to use levelling rolls whenever practical. I believe that it does less damage to the saws, produces less filer-created bumps and is faster. My colleague, who is an excellent benchman, prefers the hammer. He isn’t wrong and neither am I, both methods work and the saws look a little different afterwards but everything runs and it runs properly. Metcalf vs diamond dresser, this brand of saw vs that, a V-gauge vs an RPM gauge, the list goes on and on…

The bottom line is that there is no bottom line. A saw has been done properly when a filer has put all of his/her knowledge and skill into the task and the saw subsequently performs properly for the full length of its run. Almost every filer will produce a different looking saw from one done by an equally skilled co-worker but they will usually run uniformly. That’s the beauty of saw filing.

Trevor Shpeley is the head filer for Tolko’s Kelowna division and is currently the financial secretary for the BC Saw Filers Association.


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